3 fun tricks using a balloon and static electricity

Three cool tricks with balloons and static electricity


  • in­flat­ed bal­loon;
  • oat­meal.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Rub the bal­loon vig­or­ous­ly on your hair to elec­tri­fy it. Hold it a small dis­tance away from your hair and ob­serve how your hair is pulled to the bal­loon. Try the oat­meal ex­per­i­ment, and “pull” the bal­loon to your hand!

Process de­scrip­tion

All the ob­jects sur­round­ing us can be de­scribed as mat­ter. Mat­ter con­sists of atoms, and atoms con­sist of charged par­ti­cles: pro­tons and elec­trons (and elec­tri­cal­ly-neu­tral neu­trons). Elec­trons car­ry a neg­a­tive charge, while pro­tons are pos­i­tive­ly charged. Usu­al­ly, they bal­ance each oth­er out, keep­ing ob­jects neu­tral­ly charged. When fric­tion­al forces arise be­tween two ob­jects, the sur­face-lay­er atoms of one ob­ject can give some of their elec­trons to the oth­er ob­ject. The ob­ject that gives up its elec­trons be­comes pos­i­tive­ly charged, and the one that ac­cepts elec­trons ac­quires a neg­a­tive charge. In our ex­per­i­ment, the bal­loon’s sur­face ac­cepts some elec­trons and be­comes neg­a­tive­ly charged. An elec­tric field ap­pears around it, and at­trac­tive forces ap­pear be­tween the bal­loon and the pos­i­tive­ly- and neu­tral­ly-charged sur­round­ing.